BERLIN - Reuters
German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich (R) and Heinz Fromm, outgoing head of Germany's intelligence agency Verfassungsschutz, present the "Verfassungsschutzbericht 2011", the agency's 2011 report on threats to the constitution in Berlin July 18, 2012. REUTERS photo.
Germany's law enforcement agencies, still reeling from their botched handling of a neo-Nazi killing spree, need to work much more effectively together to tackle the security threats facing the country, the interior minister said yesterday.
Unveiling his ministry's annual report into security risks, Hans-Peter Friedrich and the outgoing head of the domestic intelligence service said radical Islamists and neo-Nazis posed the biggest threats to German
democracy and rule of law.
Friedrich also acknowledged that poor coordination between federal and regional bodies had contributed to their failure to identify and stop a neo-Nazi cell that killed 10 people between 2000 and 2007.
The murders of nine, mostly ethnic Turkish, immigrants and a police officer horrified Germans and badly dented the reputation of the national intelligence service, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.
"We must now implement reforms and restore trust in the domestic intelligence service," Friedrich told a news conference, adding that the shakeup would include an improved early warning system to prevent a repetition of past mistakes.
Friedrich said details of the shakeup would be announced in the autumn but named Hans-Georg Maassen, an anti-terrorism expert, as the new head of the intelligence service.
Heinz Fromm, the man Maassen replaces, has announced he will step down at the end of July after revelations that somebody in his agency shredded files on the neo-Nazi cell last autumn shortly after its involvement in the murders came to light.
At the news conference, Fromm reiterated his concern that radical Islamists were recruiting German
Muslims over the Internet, encouraging them to commit violent attacks in Germany.
"We are seeing a variety of networks that are in close contact with jihadist organisations from around the world," Fromm said.
Last month, Friedrich banned one radical Islamist group known as the Millatu Ibrahim, and said he might act against others that were believed to be plotting against Germany's democratic institutions.
German authorities are particularly worried by the growth of the ultra-conservative Salafist sect, which has clashed with police in several cities and towns. In one such clash in May, 29 police officers were hurt, two of them seriously, when Salafists turned on police protecting a far-right anti-Islam protest.
The interior ministry's report said Germany could face further racially motivated attacks by neo-Nazis. It recorded a small increase last year in the number of such attacks.
Chancellor Angela Merkel
publicly apologised to the families of the 10 murder victims for the catalogue of neglect and errors that allowed the cell to operate with impunity for so long.
The cell's responsibility for the killings only came to light after two members committed suicide last autumn following a botched bank robbery. A third was later arrested.